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Posts Tagged ‘Printable Bird List’

Young Bald Eagle near Macomb, IL

I’ve always thought of cycling as the intersection of running and flying.  There’s a point at which your bike’s tires seem to break the hold of both gravity and friction and you lift up in to the great blue sky and take wing.  For a brief instant, you feel like a bird yourself.  A particular moment like that sticks with me from this winter…

Great Blue Heron, Illinois

I was cycling on a blacktop road near Burton, Illinois, and in the distance a bald eagle’s white head stood out bright against the backdrop of a crystal blue January day.  He was sitting to the left of the road on an exposed tree branch, likely hunting for some rabbits or voles that were out in the empty farm fields.  I’m sure the eagle’s trained eyes saw me from much further away than I saw him, but he watched my approach with his head cocked to the side, and, excuse me for anthropomorphizing, his expression was one of bemused curiosity.  At some point, the eagle decided that maybe my approach was a little too fast, and he launched himself into the air and glided on his enormous outstretched wings across the field.  The field dipped away on the side he was on- so that he flew almost level with the road- and I saw the opportunity to ride alongside him as he flew to the east.  I pushed up to over 20 mph and the eagle ended up on my left side nearly at eye level as we raced down the road.  I had definitely increased my speed to get a good look at the eagle, but I couldn’t help but feel like the eagle had slowed up in a similar way to get a good look at me on my bike.  We flew vis-à-vis down the road for long seconds- maybe a quarter mile- until the eagle broke sharply upward, crossed overhead and issued a loud call as if to say, “Nice riding with you! See ya later!”  The encounter left my heart pumping with the feeling of pure exhilaration.

It’s moments like that one that keep me on my bike all year long, and compel me to find the backroad-less-traveled.

American Kestrel, Illinois 2012

Ha! I got so lost in thinking about the moment with the eagle that I got off the topic I sat down to write about in the first place: birdwatching from your bicycle!  Cruising down the country roads on a bicycle is a wonderful way to view wildlife – birds especially.  It seems that the speed of the bike and its relative confinement to pavement keep birds from worrying like they might if you were on foot.  Out on group rides, I’ve become our resident ornithologist, pointing out birds on wires and offering up a fact or two if I know something interesting.  I love to be asked, “What’s that one?” and love even more if I don’t know the answer and have to go home and look the bird up.

To that end, I’ve decided that this year I am going to fill out a proper birding checklist for cyclists.  The tri-state area gives road-warriors the unique opportunity to view several major bird habitats including open grassland or prairie, woods adjacent to agricultural fields , wetlands and marshes, and of course, the tremendously important Mississippi River flyway.  Did you know that nearly half of all migratory waterfowl in North America as well as many shorebirds use the Mississippi River to navigate?  That makes early spring and late fall a particularly great time to cycle along the river bottoms to view species that do not normally make their homes in Illinois.

Ring- Billed Gull, Illinois

In 2012 the birds that I’ve checked off my bicycle-only viewing list are:  Bald Eagle, Red Tailed Hawk, Common Grackle, American Robin, Blue Jay, Turkey Vulture, Great Blue Heron, Bufflehead Duck, Common Golden Eye Duck, Canvas Back Duck, Mallard Duck, Canada Goose, European Swallow, Tufted Titmouse, Killdeer, American Kestrel, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon, Downy Woodpecker, Red Headed Woodpecker, Red-Winged Black Bird, Herring Gull, Ring Billed Gull and Cardinal.

Red Tailed Hawk, Illinois (Light Morph)

In my fairly extensive internet searching, I didn’t find a suitable checklist to fold up and put in my bike pouch, so I made one!  This list is from the website http://www.illinoisbirds.org/birds_of_illinois1.html and I have reformatted it here to print on one page front and back. It’s got over 400 species, so it will cover most of the birds you’d see in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.  You may download and print your own checklist by clicking below!  Enjoy bird watching from your bicycle and let me know if you spot anything unusual!

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